Poetry News

The Poet Census counts Miami

By Harriet Staff

The University of Wynwood in Miami has plans to undertake a Poet Census, according to Beached Miami. No, that's neither a real university nor a real government-sanctioned census, but UW director Scott Cunningham, whose organization's mission is to "weave contemporary poetry into the fabric of Miami’s everyday life," thinks it's about time that poets stand up and be counted.

Remarking that even Miami's sports teams fall victim to fickle audiences, Cunningham welcomes debate over whether or not he has the right idea; after all, at least dissent means that people are thinking about poetry, which at this point they're clearly not. If season ticket holders won't even bother showing up to see LeBron James, what chance does poetry have of raising enough awareness to motivate participation? Even more ambitiously, the Poet Census wants to unearth and engage with all of Miami's poets, not just the LeBron James of the local scene, asking "all of the city’s poets — published or not — to give their names, email addresses, zip codes, and a snippet of verse that says something about them as versifiers."

We’re trying to figure out how many poets there are in Miami. And in the same way when you don’t participate in the government census, you’re sort of hurting yourself in that you’re keeping resources from being allocated to you. In the same way, I hope this census is a way for poets to emphasize how culturally important they are to Miami and what a strong group they are in terms of numbers and diversity and where they’re from. In practical terms, I think that could have an impact on cultural services in peoples’ neighborhoods. If I were going to open a bookstore and I saw that there was an unusual number of people who care about poetry in a particular neighborhood, it might make me look twice at it because the neighborhood is under-served. It’s almost identical to the government census in that regard.

Originally Published: December 17th, 2010